How Can You Make Your Self-Directed Learning More Effective?

The Learning Sprint Jul 18, 2022

Self-directed learning is considered to be a way of making learning fun rather than stressful or tedious. After all, you can choose what you wish to study and ensure that your learning aligns with your interests and goals. You can also figure out a learning schedule that is the most productive for you and assess what kind of support or practice your need to sharpen your learning. Yet, if most of your learning has been driven (or perhaps, micromanaged) by an external source, it can be hard to understand how you can make the most of self-directed learning.

Here are some ways you can make your self-directed learning more effective:

Cultivate intrinsic motivation

Often, our academic goals are connected to an extrinsic motivator - you may want to learn a particular topic well, for instance, to ace an exam rather than learning it just because, something that can be quite central to self-directed learning.

Though this may sound counterintuitive, you can learn how to spark intrinsic motivation - how to spark genuine interest in learning. For example, letting go of fear as a source of motivation may be beneficial; dwelling on the possibility of failure every time you approach learning could mean that you aren't in the right space for exploring anything about a specific topic that you might have otherwise found engaging.

You can find more ways to cultivate intrinsic motivation here.

Try to set realistic goals

Have you ever created a to-do list planning out your entire day, ultimately barely achieving anything you wanted? What if this is not a one-off moment but a repeating trend? In many instances, this could simply be a result of expecting too much from yourself.

Trying to have a realistic framework can help you derive greater value from your self-directed learning rather than constantly feeling like you aren't being productive enough due to not incorporating your capacity and external needs in your schedule.

Understand your learning approach

You may not enjoy a particular common learning style or find it useful. For instance, many people consider verbalizing their learning beneficial; this method helps them distinguish what they have taken away from what they thought they learned and make their comprehension more concrete.  Some people, however, may find this to be daunting and may prefer a form of learning that doesn't involve such interaction.

Experiment with different learning styles, see what works the best for you, and make them a part of your self-directed learning.


Ritika Singhal

Senior year student passionate about social justice and inclusive reform | she/her